To mark This is Engineering Day today (6th Nov), College alumni Sorria Douglas is supporting the campaign by sharing her experiences as a female engineer.
Statistics show that every year the UK is short of 59,000 engineers, while only 12% of the professional engineers in the UK are female, and 9% are from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds.
Sorria, 26, is a Junior Mechanical Design Engineer at Nottingham-based L.A.C. Conveyors and Automation. She is the first female engineer at the company and is keen to share her story with aspiring STEM students about how she got into the role.
Here’s what she had to say:
I studied Chemistry, Biology and Maths at the College (2011-2013). I chose these subjects because in secondary school it was maths and science I enjoyed the most, and although I wasn’t really set on what I wanted to do, I knew I wanted to go into something technology or science-related.
The STEM subjects that I studied at College enabled me to gain a broad knowledge of each subject that was also not restrictive of a certain career path. To help me determine which career path was best suited to me, I completed an online questionnaire which highlighted mechanical engineering as a possible career choice, I was eager to find out more information; I didn’t know anything about it!
Intrigued, I watched a range of videos on mechanical engineering and contacted different universities to find out more about their courses. I enrolled onto the University of Derby’s four-year mechanical engineering course in 2014.
I didn’t see any females on my course at first, and I began to wonder whether I was the only one - out of 100! Turns out there were five of us in total; we gelled instantly and are still friends to this day. I understand that this male-dominated course would have put a lot of women off, but it honestly didn’t bother me at all.
I thoroughly enjoyed the course, particularly the problem-solving element and how I was challenged to discover the best solution possible. It was exciting that the course helped me develop a broad knowledge around thermo-dynamic, thermo fluids and contemporary machine design - all heavily maths-based and definitely laid down the fundamentals to begin my career in the industry. During my final year, I decided to specialise in designing 2D and 3D modelling machinery; permitting a greater visualisation of features and elements of a mechanical build.
Graduate recruitment in the Engineering Market
From the offset I knew that the graduate market would be competitive, so during my dissertation- which focused on designing and developing a novel wind turbine that could efficiently be used in a rural village setting - I began looking for graduate employment in project management and mechanical engineering roles.
I was so pleased when I found out I’d graduated with a First Class Honours overall, including a 88% mark in my dissertation. It really reinforced that I had chosen the right career path. It wasn’t long before I’d secured a job at a local company, but a few months into the job I knew it wasn’t for me; there were a lot of admin activities involved that were not originally advertised.
As I was looking on LinkedIn one night, I came across a job advertisement for a mechanical design engineer role at Nottingham-based L.A.C. Conveyors and Automation. It seemed perfect! I was genuinely excited about the opportunity and the fact there were a team of engineers there that I could learn from.
I have now been working at the company for three months and I am the only female engineer so far; this was something that was raised during my second interview, as they wanted to ensure that I would feel comfortable. Growing up with three older brothers, completing a male-dominated degree and with my passion for mechanical engineering - I was and still am not fazed.
My advice for anyone thinking of pursuing a STEM subject further would be to go for it! There’s so much that you’re able to do with an engineering qualification and it’s continually evolving. If you enjoy subjects such as science, technology, maths and enjoy coming up with real-world solutions, then engineering could definitely be for you.
The engineering sector is starting to see progress in terms of gender diversity, but it is slow. No matter your gender, fresh minds to develop solutions are paramount within the industry. As a young female entering this industry and following my passion, I have never once felt out of place or treated inferior to my male colleagues, and I love being able to say that, honestly, when I go to women in engineering dedicated events.- Sorria